How to Write an "Expression of Interest in Research" Email

How to Write an "Expression of Interest in Research" Email

ARJUN MENTA

Research is an important activity for college students and pre-medical student to be a part of. It can provide vital insight and experience into the field you intend to pursue as well as allow your graduate schools/jobs to see that you have taken the initiative to gain first-hand experience even before you have left your college setting. I can personally attest to the fantastic experience performing research provides and I encourage as many of you to do so if possible in your college career.

One of the rate-limiting steps for college students to performing research is appropriately getting in contact with professors and asking them to join their lab to perform research. Writing that email which initiates your expression of interest to the lab PI (primary investigator – lab jargon) can make or break your acceptance into their lab. It should be well written, informed, and succinct – or else they may not feel it is worth their time to even reply! In this article, we go over some of the important details for writing an “expression of interest research email.”

Let’s break it down. There are 5 key parts to the email namely which are: opening, introduction, experience, personal statement, and the ending.

 

#1. An example of an opening is provided below:

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Hello Dr. (insert PI’s name here – he is the one who usually runs the lab/the lab is named after)

 

How are you?

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Remember to always address them as Dr. (if they have a PhD – which they most probably do) is appropriate, or else it is a sign of disrespect. If they are not a doctor then address them as “Mr.” or “Ms.” depending on whether they are a guy or girl, respectively. Following that, insert a blurb which asks how they are, I have inserted a standard one in for you but there are many to choose from.

 

 

#2. An example for the next part, the introduction, is provided below:

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My name is (insert your name here), and I am currently a student at UT Austin studying (insert your major here). I have (insert time period of research experience) previous research experience and I am very interested in participating in undergraduate research. I was hoping for the opportunity to speak to you about your lab’s work. In particular, I read your paper entitled “(insert article paper here)“ in the Journal of (insert article paper publishing journal here)  from (insert article publishing date here). I found the (miniature summary of the article) work very interesting.

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This is one of the most important parts of the email, and it is also the first thing they read. Insert your full name, your major, and if applicable your length of previous research experience (if you have not had any research experience then exclude that part). Then read one of the papers their lab has published on google scholar and insert the info into the appropriate blanks provided above. It is encouraged to talk more about the article than just the one sentence demonstrated above. This exemplifies your interest in research and their lab and shows that you have done your research on them and are not just sending a “blind” email.

 

 

#3. An opening sentence for the next part, experience, is provided below:

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My previous experience includes:

·        Years of work

·        Who it was under

·        Published work

·        Skills mastered/experienced

·        Tasks performed

·        Chemicals you have worked with

·        Presentation skills *if applicable

·        Lab classes

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In this part of the email, which is usually the longest if you have had previous research experience, include your past previous research/lab experience. Be as specific as possible and try to include as much detail as possible. Only include the important aspects of the experience and make sure this part isn’t too long!

 

 

#4. An example for the next part, personal statement, is provided below:

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I am very eager to work and in the lab and intend on committing to it for (insert time period). I can work well both independently and on a team (insert teamworking statement). My goal would be (insert reason for pursuing research and what you hope to gain from it). I am not seeking to receive course credit or payment but if the option is available I would like to take advantage of it.

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In this part of the email, the structure above is open to interpretation. There are a variety of ways you can write this part. However, it is important to include your reason for pursuing reach, a statement of your teamwork skills, and your future career goals. This allows them to see your motivation; they want a student who will not quit or drop out when things are hard.  Training you is an investment of their time and money and they simply want to make sure it is worth it and that you will stay for a decent period.

 

 

#5. An example for the last part, the ending, is provided below:

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I would appreciate the opportunity meet and speak with you in person. If so, I can be reached via email or phone.
Please get back to me at your earliest convenience.
Thank you.

Regards,        *(or sincerely, etc.)
(insert name)

(insert phone number)
(insert email)

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This is a “standard” email closing. Be sure to thank them for their time and state that you are expecting a reply. Also, be sure to include your email and phone number at the bottom, sometime these emails get printed out and if your email and number is inputted into the email it will make it easier to contact you.

Now you have experience all the parts of writing a research imitation email. All you have to do is put it all together and start emailing professors.

Good Luck and Happy Hunting!

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